I have in my possession two little cards that slide into my wallet that qualify me to administer CPR and first aid. These will stay put, unseen for another two years, till I do a refresher. It’s nothing to crow about but I silently feel empowered with life-saving skills.
Wilderness First Aid (WFA) makes sense because of where I am. It would make as much sense in an urban setting. The difference as far as I can see is the high-caliber of the course for a reasonable price. The idea, I think, is to make it affordable for everyone – paying it forward right there. The other huge advantage of this wilderness first aid training is that it teaches you to be resourceful. To make do with what you have or what is around you, in order to prevent serious injuries from potentially becoming deadly.I especially like the emphasis on “do no harm” while doing good!
Unlike first aid courses often held in air-conditioned conference rooms, this one also exposes you to the elements, where scenarios, complete with blood* and gore, make it scary-real. It’s also a very interactive course (with many light moments thrown in) that builds confidence to go solo and work as a team. What really sticks is the creative use of the body as a teaching aid and unconventional props.
Hanifl Centre has trained 370 people in small batches across India, in 1 1/2 years including professionals from the outdoor/tourism industry, corporate world, housewives, university students, and teachers. I would highly recommend it. Take it forward. Share.
To say I am surprised by the size and length of this caterpillar is an understatement. It’s about the same length as a pen and thrice as thick. Appearance wise, it would do very well in a creepy sci-fi movie.
I was pottering around my flowers beds when I noticed some movement. What I mistook for a rather limp looking piece of a bamboo trellis, turned out to be the fattest and longest caterpillar I have ever set my eyes on. It was gnawing away at a leaf and would freeze if I went up too close. After a few fuzzy takes and some patience, I caught it make a slow move.
Much to my disappointment, it had disappeared the next morning. It might have camouflaged itself a little better after its encounter with a giant creature -meaning me! I would have loved the chance to document it spin itself into a silky cocoon and watch the complete metamorphosis. I was told by Peter Smetacek, India’s leading lepidopterist, that this one will turn into a spectacular large Hawk-moth.
Watch out for my video. With the local internet speeds pretty much as slow as my caterpillar, it will reach you in a week or two.
For the past month or so, every time I leave the house, I’ve been hearing a rapid flutter of wings accompanied by a slightly high-pitched screech, followed by gentle tapping. I spent weeks looking for what I recognized to be a woodpecker but never caught it perching in one place for too long. It seemed strange; I kept hearing it in the middle of the afternoon when sane birds take cover. So what was this pesky little bird up to? It was doing nothing but distracting me and probably warning its mate of imminent danger.
Be conscious of your surroundings.
Blame it on the fact that I am a wildlife enthusiast of sorts and curious enough to spend the better part of my day looking for anything that I can digitally capture. Luckily, I do not have the distractions of employment interfering with my rambles; and so it came to be I noticed an old hollow with fresh drilling marks.
Be ready for contingencies.
Feeling like a photojournalist about to enter the NG hall of fame, I started by keeping my camera cleaned and charged, my SD card empty, played my music real low and kept an ear out for any tapping throughout the day.
Keep your house clean.
In the meanwhile we were expecting houseguests and as is the norm at our home, just before their arrival we conducted a monumental clean-up effort. As you can guess, this included wiping our windows clean. And we have a lot of them! As I drew the curtains to proceed, I realised I was standing four feet away from the tree hollow. And lo and beyond there was the brown fronted woodpecker sticking its little head out.
Always work in good light.
Whilst spying on the woodpeckers, I noticed they were most active when the sun lit up the inside of their hollow. They were using natural light to their advantage and mine. Though I was photographing them from behind a dark glass window, they were perfectly lit up as I captured their activities.
Share responsibilities as a team.
Though the pair worked together I rarely saw them both at the hollow at the same time. One of them would spend a few minutes inside the hollow carving out the nest and then would take time clearing out the wood chips before starting again. Reminded me of me cooking while my spouse did dishes later. An arrangement that always works out well!
I also noticed the woodpecker pick up wood chips and with a quick shake of the head and bill, disperse it to the wind instead of just dropping it off like dead weight. They left no trace of their nest building that way.
Use all the resources you can.
In my enthusiasm, I shot a lot of shaky movie clips at different times of the day before I realized I could just as well have planted my tripod in place. I found better use of ankle weights (which I never use) for weighing down the tripod in the hope my mountain dogs wouldn’t topple it over. They have the uncanny knack of snuggling up by my feet just when I don’t want them to!
Whatever you do, give it your best shot.
These minuscule woodpeckers have been drilling out their home to perfection for a few weeks now.
I tried to get a glimpse of the inside of the nest but it was deep and cleverly spiralled out. Making it relatively safe from larger predators! They had functionality and safety all figured out! Makes you wonder why the word birdbrain has such negative connotations. Seriously!
As you can see, I was rewarded with a private viewing of the secret life of the yellow-crowned woodpecker.
Woodpecker chicks are hopefully on their way soon. Their intelligent parents are bound to teach them more than 8 life skills to survive. I have seen timber martens claw away at a woodpecker nest before and I’m hoping they never sniff this one out. Hope you enjoy the photos. All of them were shot through my (recently cleaned) window.
This beautiful cuckoo graced the deodar outside for just a few minutes. The call was a distinct giveaway but I wasn’t fast enough to capture it. The video and stills were shot through a glass door so they’re not very sharp.
At sundown a few evenings ago, I saw what I thought were two bees around my flower pots. They were still there an hour later. On taking a closer look I realised there were moths, though quite different from the hawk moth that I was familiar with. I took the camera out in time to get a few shots before nightfall. It wasn’t easy as these moths were flitting around like they couldn’t make up their minds; barely hovering over a flower for a second or so. Peter Smetacek, a lepidopterist-friend, helped me id the moths. Peter is one of India’s experts when it comes to butterflies and moths and has got a whole lot of us “infected” as he says, with his passion for the flutterby.
The Hippotion Celerio is also called the Vine hawk moth or Silver striped Hawk moth. With summer flowers blooming, I hope I get to see more of the Sphingidae family.
I saw a blind Acupuncturist. When I made my appointment I wasn’t sure if it was actual pain that motivated me or plain old curiosity that made me call. I guess it was a bit of both. I have never visited an Acupuncturist before. Neither had I heard of one in the Himalayan foothills where I live.
There are certain people you hear of that you immediately think you would like to meet and there are those that might as well not exist. What caught my interest was the fact that I’d heard this doctor is also a teacher who is passing on his skills to blind students. He has been practising the alternative science/ancient art of acupuncture for the last 40 years! I’m very grateful he agreed to meet me though he was under no obligation to do so.
This soft-spoken doctor, whose name I shall not reveal, is an elderly gentleman. He’s pretty spritely and energetic, which instantaneously raises the trust-barometer as far as I’m concerned. Healthy doctors do inspire confidence. He’s good-natured too and didn’t take me to be an absolute nincompoop. An added bonus these days. To top it all he is quite tech savvy and has his computer talking back to him.
I was fascinated by just how quickly he got down to diagnosing my problem. Switching between head and limb, asking questions, moving joints, applying pressure he swiftly found solutions to tackling my problem area and showed me extra exercises to improve my overall agility. All without sticking a single needle into me.
I felt I was being treated by a Zen master and was getting my money’s worth except he refused to charge! This, after spending at least an hour of his free time for me – a total stranger. Quite the man. Overnight I’m beginning to believe ‘the blind leading the blind’ is pretty awesome. You can see why.
In fact, it’s all blah. I was invited to Dunda village (Uttarakhand, India) by a colleague who heads ‘Community Engagement’ through the school I work for. These service projects, a collaboration between a hospital, an NGO and my school is a mutually beneficial arrangement between villages and us; mostly, providing opportunities to our students; exposing and sensitizing them to village life, actively engaging them in bringing about change, and hopefully impacting them for life.
Most of these projects are student-driven. They are instrumental in replacing destroyed irrigation systems, roofs, in some cases, houses and providing employment. Besides providing training in revival of more eco-friendly farming, animal husbandry, poultry farming, construction techniques and use of poly houses, building a brand new primary school, creating sand-based water filters and benefiting lives in other small ways. But this post isn’t what is being done and planned for the village but it’s about my undoing!
The familiarization trip in a glossed-over-by-rain landscape was a great out of office experience. The sound of gushing waterfalls and paddy fields were a sight for sore eyes. In spite of all the green cover we could see where last year’s landslides had covered up fields with rocks and rubble, devastated irrigation channels overnight destroyed the livelihood of several villagers.
I always thought it was impossible to get two neighbouring villages to agree on anything.
There were 2 villages gathered under one roof that day, representing around 75 families. Though voicing their concerns rather rambunctiously at first, they simmered down to discussing and making decisions on their own.
I believed a woman has no voice in an Indian village
The head of the village/gram pradan who is a young woman chaired the meeting while lots of other women attended. They are no less vocal than their menfolk. I found out just how hard their lives are; even basic necessities like sanitary napkins are beyond their reach, making it almost impossible to venture too far from home when they’re menstruating. Plans are on to teach them to make low-cost yet hygienic and eco-friendly sanitary napkins. The younger girls, like all young girls, aspire for more. “English-coaching” and tailoring skills are part of their bucket list.
I was of the opinion that the ‘caste system’ in villages is set in stone
What really made me sit up and take notice was the fact that these villagers whose lives are steeped and driven by caste equations were nonchalantly nodding their heads in agreement when it came to the ‘right’ to education. They promised us that the new primary school would be open to any child from Dunda and the neighbouring villages.
Was it the collaboration between the facilitators that in turn triggered the collaboration between the villagers? I will never know for sure but it was rather unexpected to see them take a common stand. Perhaps once in a while one needs to visit a village to look at life afresh.